Ok, we’re not even a month into the school year and I’m already over the homework. Sheesh. I’m just the Momma, it’s not even my homework! And the more I read and think and pray, the more oppose to homework I am, except for two cases…
- The child is not being diligent and getting their classwork finished and has to bring it home to work on it. This would go hand-in-hand with a student with a specific learning challenge that needs extra work. (Um, we have one of those. Maybe two. I don’t say this lightly or flippantly.) OR
- Special projects which are individualized to each student and require individual, hands-on participation from parents, such as the Heritage Speech competition or a science fair project.
And in both those cases, the homework assigned should be detailed specifically to the issue which gave rise to the assignment. “Studying” should not include a busy-work paper assignment like “write your spelling list 3 times.” Just give the parents/students a list of recommended study strategies and let them figure out what works for that student. There shouldn’t be a required, turn-in-the-next-day, assignments for the 4 hours every day our kiddos are at home, together, as a family.
Why am I so emphatic about this? I think there’s a whole series of posts lingering in my mind about this topic and all the myths about homework we get from education circles, but I want to really focus on one thing right now–OUR CHILDREN HAVE OTHER, MORE IMPORTANT, THINGS TO LEARN AT HOME.
There is so much more to life than school…or eventually their job. We’re creating pressures and artificial deadlines which leave our kids constantly yearning toward the next step, the next thing, the next level…instead of living the life right in front of them today. They’re like burnt-out little workaholics by the time they hit high school and we’re wildly cheering them on for being self-motivated achievers–when pretty much none of their academics have anything to do with God’s purpose for His creation.
We need to take back our family time and give our kids balance again.
This is where I think SCHOOL and HOME have gotten so mixed up. Schools (and parents!) think the school is teaching (or is responsible for teaching) everything the students need to know. They aren’t. And that shouldn’t be their job. But I can’t do my job, as the parent, if schoolwork is monopolizing all the munchkins time and energy with pointless worksheets and “20 minutes of reading a day.” DO THAT AT SCHOOL. They’re there for 7 hours a day– I think you should have time to fit in 20 minutes of reading.
Why should the Cowboy have to slog through 20 minutes of “The clouds are white. The clouds are fluffy. The clouds are fluffy white.” instead of us having time to read together about the missionary adventures of Amy Carmichael in India or the letters of Stonewall Jackson or the story of Rolf the Viking? School can teach them to read, but I’m the one teaching them to love reading, to see the adventure of reading, to want to read, to use reading to learn about the whole big-wide-world–and that takes time too!
What are some other things they need to learn out in the real world with me?
They need to learn about WORK
- They need to learn that work has meaning, even when it’s not fun. They can’t learn that with busy-work like math worksheets or copying their spelling list. It requires real work. Family building work. Community improving work. Household management work. Growing food work. This meaningful work also gives purpose to their school work.
- They need to learn that real work has consequences. More than a bad grade on a paper. These are artificial consequences, and I think kids can sense that to some degree. They need to know that being lazy or dishonest gets you fired. That not being diligent (leaving gates open) gets people (animals) hurt. That mistakes can cost money–sometimes money that you don’t have! They need to know that some choices are more important than others–some are even life and death!
- They need to learn that work doesn’t end, and that the happiest life embraces work at its daily core. The whole school environment sets up artificial deadlines of when the work will be “over.” After the test, after that year, after graduation…in real life the end of one kind of work means the start of another. The office workday ends and I still have cooking, cleaning, laundry, school work, farm chores, budgeting, trip planning, car repairs, grass to mow…it doesn’t stop. You have to learn to enjoy the ride, not always be looking for the next stop to get off.
- They need to learn balance. You don’t work from 8 am to 5 pm, then come home and work for another hour or two, eat dinner, and go to bed–that’s not a balanced life (although that is their days if we’re not careful!). Neither is coming home, eating dinner, and playing video games until 1 or 2 in the morning and then dragging at work the next day.
They need to learn about HOME
- They need to learn to buy food, and cook it. On a budget. How seriously are they going to take nutrition if they have no part in managing the kitchen at home?
- They need to learn to clean the house. One day there won’t be any more school–they’ll have to go to work and then come home and sweep the floors, do the laundry, cook the meals, wash the dishes, walk the dog…there are elements of time management, monetary responsibility, obedience, and simple efficient that they can not learn from reading stories in class. Believe me, I know. I came to marriage having no idea how to run a household with a cleaning routine!
- They need to learn to fix and maintain stuff. This is no joke either. They need to learn to fix the leaking sink, change the oil in the car, cut the grass, paint the bathroom, change the light bulbs…there’s an endless list of things they’ll need to do as adults that they are not going to learn in school. And these are going to be just as important in their future as trigonometry is–dare I say more so? (Anyone who has watched Disaster DIY probably agrees with me. There’s more to it than just following the directions on the box!)
- They need to learn to balance the budget. What to spend, what to save, what to give…when and to whom, and why! Our children need to learn how to apply money as a tool in life, not as a purpose in life.
- They need to learn to plan, dream, and create.
They need to learn about PEOPLE
- They need to learn to interact with someone other than their peers. The constant age-segregation at school keeps them from learning to humor and protect younger kiddos, relate to older children, interact safety with strange adults, respect older generations, and sift through the different levels and concepts of authority they’ll run into in life.
- They need to learn to serve. At home, serving their family. At church, serving the Lord. In the community, serving those in need…kids need time to give of themselves.
- They need to learn to be angry. Sound crazy? In school the kids have to have constant self-control. That’s important, but it’s hard! Our children need the chance to learn to be angry and sin not, and the security of home is the best place for that.
- They need to learn to forgive. Especially when truly wronged. No one can hurt you like those closest to you. Children need time within and close to their family to watch conflict unfold, relationships struggle, and healing happen. They need to see marriages working in front of them. They need to see families responding to illness and death and loss. They need to see siblings forgiving and forgetting.
School is part of their days, not the purpose of their days! We call school their “job.” It’s not. Their job is to serve the Lord, whatever form HE has for that to take. And they can do it right now, right here, as children. It doesn’t have to wait until they’re grown, or they graduate, or they get “a real job.” Life is right now. We need to give them time to live it.
“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.” (Proverbs 20:11)
I hear policy-makers say we need longer school days and I just feel like screaming. We need to focus on helping our kids learn, not making them do more work and check off more boxes for someone else’s fancy chart, filling their hours with “enrichment” classes that are about socio-economics rather than education. My kids don’t need latin dance class at school. They need reading and writing at school and time to dance and paint at home. The school day should not revolve around how many healthy lunches we can provide. And we need to stop expecting our young children to support our international reputation with all these test scores.
Anyway, these things are on my mind today.